Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2016

Publication Title

Virginia Quarterly Review




Of the five senses, vision tends to get the glory. We hail great innovators as visionary, praise writers for their insight, and thank friends for offering perspective. We call prophets seers, but also admire daily perspicacity and seek to avoid myopia and blind spots. Just consider the words spectacles and spectacular, and you catch a glimpse—not a whisper, a glimpse—of the divergence between vision in the optometrist’s office and vision in our cultural construction of it. But while vision gets the glory, hearing has our trust. We want justice to be blind during court hearings. In times of crisis, more than to the insightful friend, we turn to the good listener. Perhaps this is because hearing is our most social sense, the sense we have the least control over, the sense that is the most democratic. It’s easy enough on the subway to look away from someone, but it’s almost impossible to hear away, to filter out one particular voice.


Author Posting. © The Author 2016. This article is posted here by permission of the author for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer, 2016,

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.